The Cornell University Police Department has extended its zero-tolerance program through the end of September in an attempt to cut down the rash of traffic infractions on campus. The zero-tolerance program is a campaign funded by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Cornell’s participation in the National Stop on Red Week 2003, which lasted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, resulted in 158 traffic citations for various violations of New York State vehicle and traffic law, three DWI arrests and six arrests for aggravated unlicensed operation.
National Stop on Red Week “brought people’s awareness that running red lights is dangerous,” said Sgt. Chuck Howard, traffic enforcement coordinator for CUPD. “A lot of people get injured — sometimes for life — because other people don’t stop at stop signs.”
The zero-tolerance program in place now is an extension of the National Stop on Red Week. Penalties for a moving violation include a minimum of two points on a driver’s license plus a fine. If caught more than once in a short period of time, “the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles take a dim view of it,” Howard said. “Even if we’re not in zero tolerance, we will have low tolerance for people who violate traffic laws.”
Extra traffic patrols at all stop signs and red lights around campus have been set up to monitor traffic activity, and while officers are constantly checking the roads for unsafe drivers, Howard said that there is no quota system in place for the number of tickets an officer must write.
“No Cornell officer has a quota,” he said. “That is illegal under New York State law. We are looking for people breaking the law and we do not take any excuses. Saving lives is a very important part of our mission. If one ticket can save one life, then it is worth writing.”
Many Cornell motorists have problems with the system, disagreeing with the impracticality of trying to stop all drivers from breaking traffic laws.
“Well, there’s no way that they can pull everyone over, so maybe the community as a whole would be better served by some sort of educational campaign,” said James Berry ’06.
Other students found the targeting of students to be problematic.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s really horrible that they’re targeting Cornell students. They’re going to get the most money targeting students. It’s smart on their part, but it’s not fair [to us],” said Jane Ginther ’06.
However, CUPD has stated that they believe they are doing what is best for the community they serve.
“Be careful. Respect the rights and space of others,” Howard suggested. “People violating New York State traffic laws are going to get tickets, pure and simple.”
Archived article by Erica Temel